Way of the Samurai 4 Hands On
Developer: Acquire / Publisher: XSEED / Platform: PlayStation 3 / Release Date: Summer 2012
The Way of the Samurai series is, by now, quite dated. It falls into the Dynasty Warriors category of games with its semi-historical settings and characteristics, and if you’ve played one, well… it’s the kind of fun one has watching B movies. And like all these titles, this series has its own un-replicated quirks and eccentricities that baffle and amuse. The two main differences between this new entrée and previous games are the new storyline and the ability to “night crawl” (which I’ll explain shortly).
Way of the Samurai 4 follows the story of an unknown samurai who has entered into a town called Amihama, the focal point of cultural, political, and business conflict. Japan’s ports have been forced open and English merchants are importing and exporting goods to a culture that’s conflicted on the issue. In the game’s first set piece, a group of vigilante isolationists angry with the influx of foreigners confront the Japanese Shogunate (police) near a sea port, setting up the game’s first battle.
To start, you’ll be able to choose a variety of clothing styles and body and facial types for female or male characters. Just for fun, we choose a male dressed only in traditional Japanese underwear and sandals. And yes, he stood out from the crowd.
For those unfamiliar with Way of the Samurai, the combat style features a roving third-person camera, sword-based combat, and special melee moves, such as grapples, kicks, head-butts, to name a few. You’ll start with a blunt sword, which deteriorates unless you pay to fix it up. Basic X and Y (light and heavy) attacks combine with the analog stick to produce vertical and horizontal swipes, pokes, and jabs. Getting up close produces throws and punches.
The first set of enemies was easy to defeat, but the combat quickly elevates, forcing you to attain better equipment and forgo button-mashing for tactical blocks, rolls, and timed counters. Picking swords off dead soldiers and buying better weapons is always a good tactic, and exploring the neighborhoods and talking with the interactive village denizens also produces results. The ability to customize, upgrade, and collect new, better swords is a major lure to these Samurai games, as the variety of sword types is both eclectic and seemingly unlimited. Samurai 4 has a little of that Diablo-style collection addiction to it, which makes it hard to put down.
Samurai 4’s open-world nature enables you to wander about town conversing with everyone and anyone. One could get caught up in the act, too, because many characters provide little quests and jobs, and more often than not, the villagers are infused with strange, goofy, and off-the-cuff personalities.
But it was the new night crawling aspect that interested me. While conversing with a variety of townspeople, you can now flirt with women with the goal of ultimately having sex with them. The basic conversation tree starts with wooing and compliments—“you are prettier than the moon,” “your lips are brighter than the cherry blossoms,” etc.—which either draws scorn from some women, who quickly walk away, or they’re interested. The conversation tree enables a few stumbles, and recovery means you’ll politely arrange to meet at a specific time and place for something more.
The diurnal system comes into play here because only at night can you meet up with your “date.” Upon arriving at a special hut, you’ll enter to find several women who are literally covering their heads with futons—making it very difficult to find your gal. (And it’s also a little weird, right?) A glowing turtle icon at the bottom of the screen indicates when you get closer to your “target,” and when you do find her, you’ll engage in a series of little minigames (thought it would be easier, didn’t you?). It gets even weirder/funnier. As you’ll gently push and toss your female partner around, you’ll eventually “win.” She will give in, meaning you’ll see the two bodies embrace as the lights turn out and the screen fades. If you fail, she’ll run away and you’ll have to start all over again from the beginning.
Finally, since the Westerners have arrived, both they and the Japanese must learn to speak each other’s languages. Way of the Samurai has always brought a great sense of humor to the table, as Acquire doesn’t take things too seriously. So you’ll find here that the English speak a broken Japanese and the Japanese speak fragmented English, which leads to many incidents with which English and language majors will enjoy.